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What is American Ginseng?
American Ginseng (xi yang shen, 西洋参), also known by its Latin name Panax quinquefolius, is a slow-growing medicinal plant that produces flesh, white root. This plant has compound leaves with a long stem and five leaflets. Its main roots are either round or spindle-shaped, with a light yellow or yellowish white colour. Not only has this herb been used by native Americans for thousands of years, but it has also been exported to Asia for Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) usage.
American Ginseng should not be confused with Asian Ginseng and Korean Ginseng. As compared to the latter two that are known to be more stimulating, American Ginseng is used to promote calm, focused energy while improving stress response and overall brain functions. However, one thing that all three types of Ginseng have in common is that they contain the same ginsenoside and gintonin compounds, just in different concentrations.
In TCM, American Ginseng falls under the category of ‘Tonic herbs for Qi Deficiency’. This herb is used for patterns of Deficiency, where it can help to replenish one’s four treasures (qi, blood, yin, yang). Cool in nature, American Ginseng can help people who have too much ‘Heat’ in their body to restore their yin-yang balance, such as those who are experiencing a Yang Excess and Yin Deficiency.
Bitter and sweet, American Ginseng tends to have a cleansing action on the body by clearing Heat, drying Dampness and promoting elimination via urination or bowel movements. It can also help to slow down acute reactions and detoxify the body. This herb also has a tonic effect on the human body as it replenishes qi and blood. In particular, American Ginseng targets the Stomach, the Heart, the Kidney and the Lung.
Functions and Benefits of American Ginseng
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) shows that American Ginseng has the following functions.
Firstly, American Ginseng can tonify qi and promote the generation of body fluid. It is frequently used to alleviate syndromes of Qi Deficiency, Yin Deficiency and diabetes. This herb can help to clear Heat, nourish yin and heal injuries of qi and yin caused by Heat pathogens. American Ginseng is also indicated for symptoms such as palpitation, insomnia and dream-disturbed sleep caused by Heart-qi and Heart-yin Deficiency, soreness, weakness of knees, seminal emission and spermatorrhoea caused by Kidney-qi and Kidney-yin Deficiency.
Secondly, American Ginseng can nourish Lung-yin to clear Lung Heat. Therefore, it can help to relieve chronic cough with little phlegm, hemoptysis, dry throat and lassitude caused by Lung-qi and Lung-yin Deficiency.
Other than the above American Ginseng benefits, modern research has also shown that American Ginseng can be used to boost our immune system and fight infections such as colds and flus. Some people also use American Ginseng to improve digestion, relieve vomiting, calm nosebleeds, loss of appetite, inflammation of the colon, inflammation of the stomach lining and manage stress levels.
Other American Ginseng health benefits include fighting anemia, insulin resistance related to HIV treatments, chronic fatigue, high blood pressure, nerve pain, erectile dysfunction, Attention Deficit-Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), bleeding disorders, breast cancer, dizziness, headaches and memory loss.
Other than bringing relief to the above symptoms, American Ginseng is also a great health booster. Many athletes use it to improve their athletic performance and mental performance. It also serves as an anti-ageing aid.
How to Use American Ginseng
The recommended daily dosage of American Ginseng is 1-2g for fresh root, 0.6-2g for dried root, and 200-600mg for liquid extract. Patients who are consuming American Ginseng to improve their mental and physical performance should consume the herb in cycles of 15-20 days, followed by a two-week break.
Unpeeled and uncooked American Ginseng can be found at many herbal stores and even certain grocery stores. Dried and peeled Ginseng is available to us in forms such as American Ginseng powder, American Ginseng capsules and American Ginseng extract.
American Ginseng is also added to many other health products, such as American Ginseng supplements, herbal tea and soup packs.
Cautions and Side Effects of American Ginseng
When used at the recommended daily dosage, American Ginseng is considered safe for consumption. However, individuals who have symptoms of a Cold-Damp stomach should avoid consuming American Ginseng.
Also, American Ginseng does have some risks for patients with hypertension. This herb may increase the effects of caffeine, antipsychotics, blood pressure drugs and steroidal medications.
Certain groups of people should be cautious about consuming American Ginseng too. It is advised that pregnant and breastfeeding women should avoid consuming the herb, and individuals with hormone-sensitive conditions such as breast cancer, ovarian cancer and endometriosis should refrain from consuming the herb too. This is because American Ginseng contains chemicals called ginsenosides, which act like estrogen. Hence, if you are experiencing any conditions that might be made worse by exposure to estrogen, it is best to avoid this herb.
As American Ginseng might affect blood sugar levels, we also strongly advise that one should avoid consuming American Ginseng at least 2 weeks before a scheduled surgery.
Here is a summary for American Ginseng:
- Herb name (Chinese): 西洋参
- Herb name (Pin Yin): xī yáng shēn
- Herb name (English): American Ginseng
- Herb name (Botanical): Radix Panacis Quinquefolii
- Origin of species: Panax quinquefolium L.
- Part(s) of herb used: Root
- Geo-specific habitat(s): Beijing, Jilin, Liaoning, as well as USA, Canada
- Taste(s) & Properties: Sweet, slightly bitter; Cool; Administrates the Heart, Lung, Spleen and Kidney meridians
- Actions: Replenishes bodily fluids; Helps to improve lung functions to prevent shortness of breath or dry coughs; Aids to remove heat, and relieves constant thirst.
Li, T. S. (1995). Asian and American ginseng—a review. HortTechnology, 5(1), 27-34. [Accessed on 25th September 2022
Scholey, A., Ossoukhova, A., Owen, L., Ibarra, A., Pipingas, A., He, K., … & Stough, C. (2010). Effects of American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) on neurocognitive function: an acute, randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover study. Psychopharmacology, 212(3), 345-356. [Accessed on 25th September 2022]
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